We all have those days, and those of us who take on way more than we can do (which describes most of us entrepreneurs) are also the ones who tend to get derailed most easily. Everything’s urgent, am I right? But as 7 Habits of Highly Effective People author Stephen Covey taught, not everything is important. I am a big fan of figuring out what is important and what is “just urgent” as the day unfolds. Take the extra second to analyze everything that crosses your desk—how essential is this task in moving you forward on today’s most important
Set aside some quiet time for the must-dos on your list. Put this time on your calendar. Just as you wouldn’t miss a meeting with an important client because something came up, you should commit fully to this time with yourself and make it your first priority. For many years, my strategy was to start work before anyone else to create some time when the rest of the world did not know I was working. I often got much of my entire day’s work done before the day technically even started. It also energized me—I felt like I could take on the world. Try it.
Identify the hardest thing on your list, the one you may be procrastinating on, and put it on your calendar today. Now do it. Again, no excuses. Once you can mark this one done, you will be amazed at how the rest of your list gets easier.
Don’t be afraid to say no. If you are always getting derailed, there may be a reason for it. You may have a target on your back—every- one knows you can be counted on to take on anything that needs doing. If so, you may be attracting people who will take advantage of your good nature.
Don’t be afraid to delegate a task to someone who has more time or skill or who may just be in a better position to take it on. Look at each item on your list each night and ask yourself if you are the best person to be doing it.
Most importantly, look back at your day and work out how successful or unsuccessful you were at meeting your goals for the day. This is particularly important if you feel you lose control of your day every day. I used to have a fantastic sales manager who was regularly pulled into other people’s projects because he was so good at them. As he was under my direction, I would often speak with him at the end of the day and ask him how his day went, and he’d tell me he was helping the graphics team with the website corrections or some other non-sales activity. As we were only paid if we sold something, I finally made him put a sticky note on his laptop that asked, “Is what I am doing making me money?” He said it helped him focus on what was important and necessary to achieve his goals—and to avoid getting sidetracked with the goals of others.
Mark Zuckerberg said, “The question I ask myself almost every day is, ‘Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?’” I encourage you to ask yourself the same question even more often.
Make a list and prioritize, never do the easiest thing first!!
Decide when you will handle email and then don’t look at it. Email is one of the most distracting things we have interrupting our day.
Even if it is only 15 minutes a day make sure you go offline, no phone and no social media.